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When we look at Mexican California (1821-1848), we find a society with certain assumptions about its place in the world being destabilized by trade and then by war. In essence, what the title refers to is the fact that American traders (known as "Bostonos" from their port of origin) brought culture from the Eastern United States with them, and the reports the traders brought back around Cape Horn created a condition where at least one American president had the objective of obtaining California from Mexico. The treaty that ended the war that resulted gave approximately one-third of the land mass of Mexico to the United States and made certain guarantees of citizenship to the Mexican people who ended up on this side of the border. You can probably guess how that worked out.

So today we examine these processes.

Foreign trade started even before Mexican independence. The "Bostonos" started to arrive as early as 1796 because it seems that when the China trade was opened the Chinese didn't really want anything from the New World except furs. As it happens, sea otter pelts were in high demand, and that's what the Boston traders found in Monterey. The Californios, on the other hand, needed some of that the Boston trading ships were carrying, and the traders brought cloth, shoes, tools and spices in return for the otter pelts. This trade quickly made stopovers in California routine, as the "Bostonos" added porcelain (here's a "Chinese export," meaning made in China for the export market, plate)

and silks to what they brought the Californios; the Californios, in turn developed a secondary trade in hides and tallow for the factories of New England, especially the shoemakers. One New England sea captain, observing the absence of a physician and of a flour mill, remarked “California wants nothing but a good government to rise to wealth and importance.”

Naturally, as time passed, the Boston traders wanted to create a regular presence in Alta California to make sure their business interests there were being well taken care of. Kevin Starr refers to them as commercial agents and "gentleman traders" and reports that at least one firm, Bryant, Sturgis & Company of Boston, set up shop in California right after Mexican independence in 1822. Carey McWilliams describes this process thus:

With scarcely a single exception, these curiously assorted individuals became citizens of Mexico, joined the Catholic Church, and married daughters of the gente de razon Embracing the daughters of the land, they likewise made a pretense of embracing its customs. -snip - By the time a man had found his way to the far-off corner of the world that was California in the period from 1820 to 1846, he was strongly inclined to believe, as Mr. Willard pointed out, that '"all churches seemed alike."
No, I don't know who Mr. Willard is, since a Google search for the phrase brings me back to the book I'm quoting from.

I have to question "pretense of embracing its customs" because there's one sterling exception to this: Alfred Robinson, who married Anita de la Guerra in what was almost a state wedding in Santa Barbara in 1836.

We know about this because Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Robinson's cousin, wrote about this in his memoir, Two Years Before the Mast. Yes, commercial interests were involved, but then there's this from Albert Hurtado:
While Robinson's's financial interests in California and the de la Guerras were obvious, it is also evident that he had more than a pecuniary association with his in-laws. He affectionately corresponded with them about family matters even after Dona Anita died in 1853. He seemed to take great pleasure in discussing political matters with his father- and brother-in-law, and took special interest in satirizing the Democratic Party.
Yes, his letters have indeed been collected. But here's a Bostonian who had a genuine interest in, and affection for, people who were different from himself.

There were all kinds of reasons why these intermarriages worked, and Mexico apparently had no problem with them. but on the other side of the Sierra Nevadas, Mexico had SO much trouble with people bringing their slaves into Texas, especially after the Mexican Constitution of 1827 declared slavery illegal in Mexico and President Vicente Guerrero freed all the slaves in Mexico two years later, that a war was fought over this and other issues that created the independent Republic of Texas in 1836. Texas was annexed as a state in 1845 which meant its border dispute with Mexico became the country's border dispute (Mexico thought it was the Nueces River, where Corpus Christi is, Texas thought it was the Rio Grande). The full Mexican War is for another diary, but considering that when the fighting stopped the United States was occupying Mexico City, Mexico didn't have much leverage when they sat down to negotiate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848). What we generally remember about the Treaty is the map it produced

 and the $15 million the United States paid Mexico for its troubles, but there was a genuine good-faith effort to deal with the people who now lived in American territory because the border had moved. In Articles VIII and IX, in fact:

Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States, as defined by the present treaty, shall be free to continue where they now reside, or to remove at any time to the Mexican Republic, retaining the property which they possess in the said territories, or disposing thereof, and removing the proceeds wherever they please, without their being subjected, on this account, to any contribution, tax, or charge whatever.

Those who shall prefer to remain in the said territories may either retain the title and rights of Mexican citizens, or acquire those of citizens of the United States. But they shall be under the obligation to make their election within one year from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty; and those who shall remain in the said territories after the expiration of that year, without having declared their intention to retain the character of Mexicans, shall be considered to have elected to become citizens of the United States.

In the said territories, property of every kind, now belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be inviolably respected. The present owners, the heirs of these, and all Mexicans who may hereafter acquire said property by contract, shall enjoy with respect to it guarantees equally ample as if the same belonged to citizens of the United States.

The Mexicans who, in the territories aforesaid, shall not preserve the character of citizens of the Mexican Republic, conformably with what is stipulated in the preceding article, shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States. and be admitted at the proper time (to be judged of by the Congress of the United States) to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction.

The DEFAULT position of this in Article VIII is that if you don't declare that you want to keep your Mexican citizenship within a year, you're an American citizen, and that's FULL American citizenship for the men.

Um, sure. Here's the eminent historian Richard Griswold del Castillo writing for the PBS website on the Mexican war about the treaty:

Since 1848 Native Americans and Mexican Americans have struggled to achieve political and social equality within the United States, often citing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as a document that promised civil and property rights. Although the treaty promised U.S. citizenship to former Mexican citizens, the Native Americans in the ceded territories, who in fact were Mexican citizens, were not given full U.S. citizenship until the 1930s. Former Mexican citizens were almost universally considered foreigners by the U.S. settlers who moved into the new territories. In the first half century after ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, hundreds of state, territorial, and federal legal bodies produced a complex tapestry of conflicting opinions and decisions bearing on the meaning of the treaty. The property rights seemingly guaranteed in Articles VIII and IX of the treaty (and in the Protocol of Queretaro) were not all they seemed. In. U.S. courts, the property rights of former Mexican citizens in California, New Mexico, and Texas proved to be fragile. Within a generation the Mexican-Americans became a disenfranchised, poverty-stricken minority.
And why, really, would we have expected Americans in the nineteenth century to look at these newly acquired citizens in a way that was different from the way they looked at the Indians? Just because they weren't armed?

Next week, the Donner Party or the Gold Rush. I haven't decided yet.

9:20 AM: Off to do the errands I have to do before today's LA Kossacks meetup at the Federal Bar (table already reserved) at Weddington St. and Lankershim Blvd, a block south of the North Hollywood Red Line Station, at 2 PM. I'll be in and out of the diary throughout the day.

Originally posted to History for Kossacks on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by LatinoKos, Los Angeles Kossacks, Southern California Inland Empire Kossacks, and California politics.

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